Anyone who has followed this blog for sometime understands my love of Chelsea Rebelle. Sitting front row at the past two seasons shows have afforded me a first hand experience of the beautiful collections, and yet for this inquisitive, and, well, downright nosey, fashion blogger, front row was not close enough.
A few weeks ago I met with Sarah Brannon, designer behind Chelsea Rebelle, to take a closer look at her creations. The above video documents my exploration of my favourite pieces from her Fall/Winter Collection. For those who have a keener eye for detail, below are a few detail shots from the pieces that I captured on film.
Details: Ex Lovers - A/W10/11
Sarah also managed to spare some time to sit down, over lemonade, tea and vegan cookie sandwiches at my new favourite LA bakery, Babycakes, to discuss her evolution as a designer and exactly how this native New Zealander found herself in Los Angeles.
Sarah trained in fashion in New Zealand, graduated in 2001 and began producing her first collection in 2000, initially creating a line of streetwear after making clothes for her friends. A romance brought her to Berkeley, California in 2002, where she continued her collection. Working out of her home the streetwear aesthetic she'd developed was successful in local boutiques. Her streetwear collection had been developed through happenstance, but despite it's success for her on a local level it was not how she'd envisioned her line.
A move to Los Angeles in 2004 gave her pause to re-evaluate her future as a designer and Chelsea Rebelle was officially launched in 2005. The first few months of Chelsea Rebelle's "life" was not without drama. A studio fire, 3 months after the launch obliterated everything Sarah had worked towards. As with most young designers money was not readily available, everything had been poured into Chelsea Rebelle and the next year was a struggle between an unscrupulous landlord refusing to let her out of her lease and insurance companies refusing to pay up.
Sarah found herself in a 'Catch 22' situation. Having lost everything, what she really needed was another chance to re-evaluate her situation, however the insurance company offered no such opportunities, refusing to pay out unless Chelsea Rebelle was to remain in existence.
Sarah proved herself resilient and once the legal battles were through she relaunched Chelsea Rebelle in early 2006. Since then Sarah has been producing collections of the highest caliber out of both London and Los Angeles.
Her work evokes the whimsy of the girliest girl with feminine silhouettes and details such as bows and pretty collars, but the garments retain a certain masculine quality through tough details such as PVC and studs. These juxtapositions, quite literally at times 'leather and lace', express a lot about who Sarah is as a designer and who she expects to be wearing her clothes. Most recently Kelly Osbourne wore the magnificent Glitter dress from the Chelsea Rebelle Spring/Summer 2010 collection to Elton John's party in Los Angeles. This was a style collaboration Sarah was very excited about, describing Kelly as the perfect Chelsea Rebelle girl. Los Angeles meets London, girly girl meets rockstar tomboy.
A notable and noble stance, deserving of a mention, is Sarah's refusal to use leather and fur in her collections, as a devout vegan she shows us how to be stylish without the use of animal by-products. The materials used to develop her collections are of the highest quality and her faux leathers and furs are just as good as the real thing minus the ick factor. Sarah is a shining example to other designers that faux does not mean faux-pas.
Having learned more about Sarah's background and how her collection has evolved through hardships I recognise the resilience within her garments. The Chelsea Rebelle character is a heroine, feisty and tough but she's not butch, she in touch with her femininity and not shy of exuding that and using it to her best advantage. She's the girl we all dream of being, and in wearing Chelsea Rebelle we find ourselves that little bit closer.